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Romans 13:7

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Render therefore to all their dues - This is an extensive command. Be rigidly just; withhold neither from the king nor his ministers, nor his officers of justice and revenue, nor from even the lowest of the community, what the laws of God and your country require you to pay.

Tribute to whom tribute - Φορον· This word probably means such taxes as were levied on persons and estates.

Custom to whom custom - Τελος· This word probably means such duties as were laid upon goods, merchandise, etc., on imports and exports; what we commonly call custom. Kypke on this place has quoted some good authorities for the above distinction and signification. Both the words occur in the following quotation from Strabo: Αναγκη γαρ μειουσθαι τα τελη, φορων επιβαλλομενων· It is necessary to lessen the Customs, if Taxes be imposed. Strabo, lib. ii., page 307. See several other examples in Kypke.

Fear to whom fear - It is likely that the word φοβον, which we translate fear, signifies that reverence which produces obedience. Treat all official characters with respect, and be obedient to your superiors.

Honour to whom honor - The word τιμην may here mean that outward respect which the principle reverence, from which it springs, will generally produce. Never behave rudely to any person; but behave respectfully to men in office: if you cannot even respect the man - for an important office may be filled by an unworthy person - respect the office, and the man on account of his office. If a man habituate himself to disrespect official characters, he will soon find himself disposed to pay little respect or obedience to the laws themselves.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Render therefore … - This injunction is often repeated in the Bible; see the notes at Matthew 22:21; see also Matthew 17:25-27; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Proverbs 24:21. It is one of the most lovely and obvious of the duties of religion. Christianity is not designed to break in upon the proper order of society, but rather to establish and confirm that order. It does not rudely assail existing institutions: but it comes to put them on a proper footing, to diffuse a mild and pure influence over all, and to secure “such” an influence in all the relations of life as shall tend best to promote the happiness of man and the welfare of the community.

Is due - To whom it properly belongs by the law of the land, and according to the ordinance of God. It is represented here as a matter of “debt,” as something which is “due” to the ruler; a fair “compensation” to him for the service which he renders us by devoting his time and talents to advance “our” interests, and the welfare of the community. As taxes are a “debt,” a matter of strict and just obligation, they should be paid as conscientiously and as cheerfully as any other just debts, however contracted.

Custom - τέλος telosThe word rendered “tribute” means, as has been remarked, the tax which is paid by a tributary prince or dependent people; also the tax imposed on land or real estate. The word here translated “custom” means properly the revenue which is collected on “merchandise,” either imported or exported.

Fear - See Romans 13:4. We should stand in awe of those who wear the sword, and who are appointed to execute the laws of the land. Since the execution of their office is suited to excite “fear,” we should render to them that reverence which is appropriate to the execution of their function. It means a solicitous anxiety lest we do anything to offend them.

Honour - The difference between this and “fear” is, that this rather denotes “reverence, veneration, respect” for their names, offices, rank, etc. The former is the “fear” which arises from the dread of punishment. Religion gives to people all their just titles, recognizes their rank and function, and seeks to promote due subordination in a community. It was no part of the work of our Saviour, or of his apostles, to quarrel with the mere “titles” of people, or to withhold from them the customary tribute of respect and homage; compare Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25; Luke 1:3; 1 Peter 2:17. In this verse there is summed up the duty which is owed to magistrates. It consists in rendering to them proper honor contributing cheerfully and conscientiously to the necessary expenses of the government; and in yielding obedience to the laws. These are made a part of the duty which we owe to God, and should be considered as enjoined by our religion.

On the subject discussed in these seven verses, the following “principles” seem to be settled by the authority of the Bible, and are now understood,

(1)That government is essential; and its necessity is recognised by God, and it is arranged by his providence. God has never been the patron of anarchy and disorder.

(2)Civil rulers are dependent on God. He has the entire control over them, and can set them up or put them down when he pleases.

(3)the authority of God is superior to that of civil rulers. They have no right to make enactments which interfere with “his” authority.

(4)it is not the business of civil rulers to regulate or control religion. That is a distinct department, with which they have no concern, except to protect it.

(5)the rights of all people are to be preserved. People are to be allowed to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and to be protected in those rights, provided they do not violate the peace and order of the community.

(6)Civil rulers have no right to persecute Christians, or to attempt to secure conformity to their views by force. The conscience cannot be compelled; and in the affairs of religion man must be free.

In view of this subject we may remark,

(1) That the doctrines respecting the rights of civil rulers, and the line which is to be drawn between their powers and the rights of conscience, have been slow to be understood. The struggle has been long; and a thousand persecutions have shown the anxiety of the magistrate to rule the conscience, and to control religion. In pagan countries it has been conceded that the civil ruler had a right to control the “religion” of the people: church and state there have been one. The same thing was attempted under Christianity. The magistrate still claimed this right, and attempted to enforce it. Christianity resisted the claim, and asserted the independent and original rights of conscience. A conflict ensued, of course, and the magistrate resorted to persecutions, to “subdue” by force the claims of the new religion and the rights of conscience. Hence, the ten fiery and bloody persecutions of the primitive church. The blood of the early Christians flowed like water; thousands and tens of thousands went to the stake, until Christianity triumphed, and the right of religion to a free exercise was acknowledged throughout the empire.

(2) it is matter of devout thanksgiving that the subject is now settled, and the principle is now understood. In our own land (America) there exists the happy and bright illustration of the true principle on this great subject. The rights of conscience are regarded, and the laws peacefully obeyed. The civil ruler understands his province; and Christians yield a cheerful and cordial obedience to the laws. The church and state move on in their own spheres, united only in the purpose to make men happy and good; and divided only as they relate to different departments, and contemplate, the one, the rights of civil society, the other, the interests of eternity. Here, every man worships God according to his own views of duty; and at the same time, here is rendered the most cordial and peaceful obedience to the laws of the land. Thanks should be rendered without ceasing to the God of our fathers for the wondrous train of events by which this contest has been conducted to its issue; and for the clear and full understanding which we now have of the different departments pertaining to the church and the state.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring and discontent. Whatever the persons in authority over us themselves may be, yet the just power they have, must be submitted to and obeyed. In the general course of human affairs, rulers are not a terror to honest, quiet, and good subjects, but to evil-doers. Such is the power of sin and corruption, that many will be kept back from crimes only by the fear of punishment. Thou hast the benefit of the government, therefore do what thou canst to preserve it, and nothing to disturb it. This directs private persons to behave quietly and peaceably where God has set them, 1Ti 2:1,2. Christians must not use any trick or fraud. All smuggling, dealing in contraband goods, withholding or evading duties, is rebellion against the express command of God. Thus honest neighbours are robbed, who will have to pay the more; and the crimes of smugglers, and others who join with them, are abetted. It is painful that some professors of the gospel should countenance such dishonest practices. The lesson here taught it becomes all Christians to learn and practise, that the godly in the land will always be found the quiet and the peaceable in the land, whatever others are.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 555

With this class you have obtained a large share of your religious experience; therefore you are not qualified for the work of teaching the most solemn, refined, elevating, and withal the most testing message to mortals. You may reach a class of minds, but the more intelligent portion of the community will be driven further off by your labors. You have not a sufficient knowledge of even the common branches of education to be an instructor of men and women who have a wily devil on the other hand to suggest and devise ways and means to lead them from the truth. 2T 555.1

The teachers of the common schools are required to be masters of their business. They are closely examined to ascertain if children can properly be trusted to their care. By investigation the thoroughness of their qualifications is tested according to the importance of the position which they are required to occupy. I saw that God's work is of as much more exalted character, and of as much higher interest, as the eternal is above the temporal. A mistake made here cannot be repaired. It is of infinite importance that all who go forth to teach the truth should be qualified for their work. No less strict investigation should be instituted in reference to their ability to teach the truth than in the case of those who teach our schools. God's work has been belittled by the slack, loose course pursued by professed ministers of Christ. 2T 555.2

I was shown that ministers must be sanctified and holy, and must have a knowledge of the word of God. They should be familiar with Bible arguments and prepared to give a reason of their hope, or they should cease their labors and engage in a calling where deficiency will not involve such tremendous consequences. Ministers of the popular denominations of the day are acceptable preachers if they can speak upon a few simple points of the Bible; but the ministers who are spreading unpopular truth for these last days, who have to meet men of learning, men of strong minds, and opposers of every type, should know what they are about. They should not take upon themselves the responsibility of teaching the truth unless they are qualified for the work. Before engaging in, or devoting themselves to, the work they should become Bible students. If they have not an education so that they can speak in public with acceptance, and do justice to the truth, and honor the Lord whom they profess to serve, they should wait till they are fitted for the position. 2T 556.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 676

Yet no one took the interest in her case that we did. I even spoke to the large congregation before we went East last fall, of their neglect of Sister More. I spoke of the duty of giving honor to whom it is due; it appeared to me that wisdom had so far departed from the prudent that they were not capable of appreciating moral worth. I told that church that there were many among them who could find time to meet, and sing, and play their instruments of music; they could give their money to the artist to multiply their likenesses, or could spend it to attend public amusements; but they had nothing to give to a worn-out missionary who had heartily embraced the present truth and had come to live with those of like precious faith. I advised them to stop and consider what we were doing, and proposed that they shut up their instruments of music for three months and take time to humble themselves before God in self-examination, repentance, and prayer until they learned the claims which the Lord had upon them as His professed children. My soul was stirred with a sense of the wrong that had been done Jesus, in the person of Sister More, and I talked personally with several about it. 1T 676.1

This thing was not done in a corner. And yet, notwithstanding the matter was made public, followed by the great and good work in the church at Battle Creek, no effort was made by that church to redeem the past by bringing Sister More back. And one, a wife of one of our ministers, stated afterward: “I do not see the need of Brother and Sister White's making such a fuss about Sister More. I think they do not understand the case.” True, we did not understand the case. It is much worse than we then supposed. If we had understood it, we would never have left Battle Creek till we had fully set before that church the sin of suffering her to leave them as she did, and measures had been taken to call her back. 1T 677.1

A member of that church in conversation about Sister More's leaving as she did, has since said in substance: “No one feels like taking the responsibility of such cases now. Brother White always took the charge of them.” Yes, he did. He would take them to his own house till every chair and bed was full, then he would go to his brethren and have them take those whom he could not. If they needed means, he would give to them and invite others to follow his example. There must be men in Battle Creek to do as he has done, or the curse of God will follow that church. Not one man only, there are fifty there who can do, more or less, as he has done. 1T 677.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 93

In my last vision I was shown that if you refuse reproof and correction, choose your own way, and will not be disciplined, God has no further use for you in connection with His holy work. If you had commenced the work of setting your own soul right with the Lord you would have seen so great a work to be done for yourself that you would not have spent so much time over the supposed wrongs of Brother H, dwelling upon them behind his back. The work of the last thirty years should inspire confidence in the integrity of Brother H. “Honor to whom honor is due.” 4T 93.1

Men in responsible positions should improve continually. They must not anchor upon an old experience and feel that it is not necessary to become scientific workers. Man, although the most helpless of God's creatures when he comes into the world, and the most perverse in his nature, is nevertheless capable of constant advancement. He may be enlightened by science, ennobled by virtue, and may progress in mental and moral dignity, until he reaches a perfection of intelligence and a purity of character but little lower than the perfection and purity of angels. With the light of truth shining upon the minds of men, and the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, we cannot conceive what they may become nor what great work they may do. 4T 93.2

I know that the human heart is blind to its own true condition, but I cannot leave you without making an effort to help you. We love you, and we want to see you pressing on to victory. Jesus loves you. He died for you, and He wants you to be saved. We have no disposition to hold you in -----; but we do want you to make thorough work with your own soul, to right every wrong there, and make every effort to master self, lest you miss heaven. This you cannot afford to do. For Christ's sake, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 4T 93.3

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